Thursday, April 2, 2009

20cc reviews: Resident Evil 5

I have never played any of the old Resident Evil games. As such, I won't be able to judge the new game's plot in the context of its predecessors. My experience with the series is as follows: I saw part of the movie on TV once, played Resident Evil 4 at a friend's, rented (or something) the first and second movies, watched them, watched them again with Biscuits, and pretty much forgot about the whole thing. I took two main things away from my experience. First, if the older games are like 4, they would probably be pretty fun, but I'm too lazy to find out. Second, Albert Wesker is a very cool villain.

Then the new game came out, and I thought it would be a fun way to get some cooperative play in. Unfortunately, I didn't really get to try the coop, because it took about two days for me to figure out how to work the split screen. (Here's a hint. You start a single player game, and then press start on the second controller. Unfortunately, like CoD5, the two screens are letterboxed, which wastes a lot of space. I've heard it said that this has something to do with the resolution setting of the TV, but I'm not about to mess with that, because I would then have to recalibrate the screen and I don't really know how to do that.)

So now that I've finished the game, I've got to think that someone meant to get a hold of the unused ideas folder from RE4, but it turned out that they accidentally used the ideas that had been used already. For one thing, the two games play exactly the same. I won't complain about that so much, because I liked RE4, but the similarity persists. Not only are almost the same breeds of Plagas present, but several enemies return that would not be expected to, realistically. The chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador makes an appearance, though slightly reskinned, and JJ the Gatling-gunner returns, red beret and all. There are more subtle similarities as well, such as the Reapers (very much like a more dangerous version of RE4's Novistadors) and the test subjects discovered at one point in the game (which have a lanky appearance somewhat similar to the Regeneradors). El Gigante even returns in the form of a disgustingly easy boss creature named Ndesu. At first, the only apparent change is that Leon Kennedy has been replaced with another returning RE character, Chris Redfield. He's a lot like Leon, except less attractive, less intelligent, and ripped like a fucking tank. (They did that so that they could include a ridiculous scene at the end in which Chris knocks over a boulder... somehow.)

Unfortunately, good enough can never be left alone. It would have been acceptable to just make a direct sequel to RE4 and call it a day. But Capcom wanted to add a partner for Chris to talk to, and Sheva Alomar was born. And as no one apparently tried to come up with new enemies, no one bothered either to try and program an acceptable AI. It wasn't so much an issue with the enemies, who were expected to be not particularly smart. However, when Sheva decided to stand behind me and try to shoot through me to hit the enemies, a problem manifested. It didn't hurt me, but when Sheva has 12 shots left, and I'm expected to resupply her once she's out, I found myself wishing she would wade into the water and get eaten by a crocodile rather than waste any more of my ammunition. However, there is then the issue of the inventory. If it were possible to kill off my dead weight partner without failing the game, I would have half the space to carry my stuff. Unlike the relatively intuitive space based system of its predecessor, RE5 uses a slot system, where each partner has nine slots, and each item takes up one slot, be it an egg or an RPG-7. Furthermore, armor—of which there are two kinds—take up a slot in the inventory. Therefore, if you want both characters to be protected as thoroughly as possible, you'll have bought both Chris and Sheva the melee vest and the bulletproof vest, be out 40,000 dollars or so, and have only seven slots left in either inventory. Wouldn't you think the characters might be wearing their armor, rather than carrying it?

And then there's the racism issue. RE5 always bothered me because of all the people who complained that it was racist to be kill black people in a video game. I can't understand that. If a black person plays a game that involves killing Caucasians, is that racist? The game takes place in Africa. The people there are African, meaning, unless we're in South Africa—which I doubt—they will be black. If all of the enemies were white, it would be not only racist, but stupid. No, my problem with the game was Sheva. Apparently, since the sole reason for a female partner is the sex appeal, and since Americans don't find Africans attractive, Sheva had to be not quite African. So instead she has Caucasian features, a complexion about as dark as an Arab watered down by a generation or so of white parents, and a voice that fluctuates between British and “spoiled American bitch.” This falls into the racist and stupid category I mentioned before. Early in the game, a guard stops the pair and tries to search them. Not only does Sheva not respond in Swahili, which you'd think would be her native language, but she gives him her best pampered American princess, “Get your hands off of me!” Wouldn't a trained soldier understand that a guard would have to search them for weapons before they enter a sensitive area? I suppose this scene was included so that we would understand early on that Sheva is a bitch, so we wouldn't develop any emotional connection with her. So many problems would have been solved if the guard had done his job and shot Sheva just then. Alas he failed, and left Sheva to torment me throughout the game by, for instance, walking out into the open as Wesker is preparing his one hit kill attack.

As I suggested before, Capcom's ineptitude was not limited to programming AI. They also managed to hire some of the worst voice actors available. Sheva is a perfect example, though not the only one. I accept that a lot of the blame rests with the writers, for expecting the actors to deliver such juvenile lines. However, there are a few characters that couldn't make Whitman sound convincing. Excella Gionne, one of the main villains, (It's really not a spoiler, because if you couldn't tell she was evil from the first or second time she was mentioned, you probably need to be told.) is another graduate from the failed African impersonators' school, and goes through the game with a Latina accent. Only one character in the game pulls off an African accent and I can't remember his name, because he has about fifteen minutes of screen time in the whole game.

The game isn't all bad, however. I was actually surprised by how well the game used its graphics. While most new games showcase their graphics by demonstrating their ability to make everything as dark and unintelligible as possible, RE5 actually uses lighting effectively. There were a couple parts in the earlier levels that actually looked downright pretty. Unfortunately, since there is so much more sunlight than in RE4, the creators had to justify Las Plagas being in sunlight. Supposedly, the researchers found a way to increase Las Plagas' resistance to sunlight, which leads me to wonder why flash grenades still kill them.

And then there's Wesker.

What really made the game for me was that Wesker was actually involved in the plot. I've decided that he's the only character in the game worth caring about, despite having a voice actor who, while not exactly bad, sounded so stereotypical it hurt my head. The rational part of me wanted to hate him, for his silly voice, for looking like the character designer used exactly the same outfit as J.C. Denton from Deus Ex, and for being everything typical of a Japanese series archvillain, but the rest of me couldn't quite do it, because he's just so cool. However, a lot of the coolness wore off during the second stage of the boss fight, partly because he looked a little overdone, and partly because it took some running, a single bullet, and a button mashing sequence (not quite a quick time event, since I believe it was only one button) to defeat him.

Also, they insist on continuing to say the Las Plagas. This translates to the The Plague. I don't even speak Spanish, and you're telling me not a single person at Capcom can figure that out?


  1. You need to play more games you like. Like Braid, which is coming out on PC in 8 days (hopefully). Anyway, I still gotta post that Jesse Venbrux interview and maybe review Gish and Spelunky.

  2. Despite what I wrote, I actually enjoyed RE5 overall.